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Saturday, September 14 • 11:31am - 11:50am
"Canadian military spouses and the virtual frontline: zones of resistance or status quo support networks?"

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Kanina Holmes, Carleton University 
Abstract submission for Social Media and Society 2013 International Conference 
Canadian military spouses and the virtual frontline: Zones of resistance or status quo support networks? 

Many of us spend a lot of time online. We are digitally plugged in at home, at work, during our workouts, commutes, errands, classes, meetings, dates, debates. Due to the almost seamless ability to connect wherever we are and whenever we want, we take much of our online access and use for granted. Much goes unasked. Why do we go online and what do we do there? What do our online actions and communications reveal about our lives? What kinds of environments are we operating in? How do those spaces influence us? How do they make some things seem knowable or possible? How do they rule out or promote certain actions, shape ways we portray ourselves and also the ways others perceive us as we virtually collide? Equally important to consider is what we bring to online spaces and how we perpetuate or change these environments. These are big issues and they raise equally extensive questions that, if asked, could contribute to existing scholarship on virtual space and virtual communities and also help gain a more sophisticated and useful understanding of internet-driven digital platforms and their effects, especially as they evolve. 

As a human geographer, my research addresses the following question: What opportunities and what limits do the social media spaces visited by Canadian military spouses create and impose vis a vis community or network formation, identity, social and political transformation? Essentially I am seeking to understand how military spouses use social media, how they interpret and interact with a range of online spaces. 

The overall aim of this larger project, (a PhD dissertation), is to generate insights about the nature of online spaces, how these spaces are gendered and potentially impact gender relations, including the delineation of public and private boundaries. I will also explore how some members of a marginalized community may employ social networking spaces to initiate social and political change or re-enforce the status quo at various scales or frontlines. 
My initial research (the beginning of my fieldwork), to be presented at this conference, will tackle a small slice of this much larger inquiry. I will focus and ground this early work in the everyday experiences of Canadian military spouses as demonstrated in their online interactions and narratives presented on a military spouse blog, a non-moderated Facebook group for Canadian military spouses and a moderated chatroom/online support group. Through content analysis, my paper will identify common themes raised on these social media platforms and will start analyzing what these interactions, in turn, reveal about the nature of these particular online spaces. 

Human geographies of the internet have made important contributions in terms of conceptualizing places that encompass both the real and virtual and also opening up the potential for new hybrid spaces (Zook 2006). I will be exploring some of the theoretical literature on third spaces (Oldenburg & Brissett 1982; Oldenburg 1991; Robinson & Deshano, 2011) and the property of insideness (Relph 1976, Seamon & Sowers 2008) to search for conceptualizations, properties and uses of online environments that best correspond and most accurately reflect everyday experiences of military spouses. When exploring online social networks and communities (to whom geographers owe considerable credit to thinkers such as Rheingold, sociologists Castells, Wellman and information and communications scholars including Haythornthwaite and Baym), I also find Massey’s earlier notions of places as more than physical areas with boundaries to include “articulated moments in networks of social relations and understandings (quoted in Zook 2006: 66) to be especially helpful because it is sufficiently dynamic to encompass fleeting and often elusive online encounters and exchanges and also capture the idea of online environments as social places. 
Baym, Nancy K. 2010. Personal Connections in the Digital Age. Cambridge: Polity Press. 
Castells, Manuel. 2002. “The Internet and the Network Society.” In The Internet in Everyday Life, edited by B Wellman. Malden: Blackwell Publishing. 
Haythornthwaite, C, and B Wellman. 2002. The Internet in Everyday Life. Malden: Blackwell Publishing. 
Massey, Doreen. 2005. For Space. London: Sage. 
Oldenburg, Ramon. 1991. The Great Good Place. New York: Paragon House. 
Oldenburg, Ramon, and Dennis Brissett. 1982. “The Third Place.” Qualitative Sociology 5 (4): 265–284. 
Relph, Edward C. 1976. Place and Placelessness. London: Pion. 
Rheingold, Howard. 1993. The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier. Reading: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. 
Robinson, Sue, and Cathy Deshano. 2011. “Citizen Journalists and Their Third Places.” Journalism Studies 12 (5) (October): 642–657. 
Seamon, David, and Jacob Sowers. 2008. “Place and Placelessness (1976): Edward Relph.” In Key Texts in Human Geography, edited by Phil
Wellman, Barry, and M Gulia. “Virtual Communities as Communities: Net Surfers Don't Ride Alone.” In Communities in Cyberspace, edited by M Smith and P Pollock. London: Routledge. 
Zook, Matthew. 2006. “The Geographies of the Internet.” Annual Review of Information Science and Technology 40 (1): 53–78. 

avatar for Kanina Holmes

Kanina Holmes

Associate Professor, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
Living a wonderfully varied life as: a teacher (introduction to journalism studies, fundamentals of reporting, ethics, television news, current affairs and documentary, international affairs reporting); late-bloomer mama to a seven-year-old son and a nine-year-old daughter; PhD candidate... Read More →

Saturday September 14, 2013 11:31am - 11:50am EDT
ROWE 1020

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